Various iwi inhabited the Manawatu, primarily along the rivers, for approximately 300 years before European incursion into the area began. The Upper Manawatu area encompassed parts of the Ahuaturanga and Rangitikei-Manawatu Blocks and featured riverside pa such as Raukawa and Ti Wi, near what would become Ashhurst and Palmerston North respectively. Despite the presence of these settlements the wider area was not heavily populated, but it was known as a wonderful hunting and gathering ground for eels, waterfowl, and other native birds and fruits. There were instances of dispute between the various Manawatu iwi and hapu, perhaps the most significant sustained period of conflict occurred in the early nineteenth century as a result of the southward movement of some Waikato tribes and Te Rauparaha.
As such by the late 1840s the sale of the Rangitikei-Manawatu Block to the Crown was contested between several iwi and ‘…there raged for years a storm of litigation around the Rangitikei-Manawatu Block which not only strained the relations between [iwi and] European settlers, but at one time threatened to break out in inter-tribal war.’ Therefore, it was not until the conclusion of several Native Land Court cases in the late 1860s that the European settlement of the block was able to progress to any extent.
It has been said that ‘in the field of state-aided colonization no other had proved such an unqualified success as the settlement of the Manchester Block in the Manawatu District.’ This process began with the arrival of 23 immigrants from Britain who settled in Feilding in 1874. This settlement scheme had its origins in England during the 1860s when a group of influential men, imbued with a philanthropic spirit, formed the Emigrant and Colonists’ Aid Corporation Limited. The corporation’s chairman, the Duke of Manchester, and other members were motivated by their shared concern for the plight and living conditions of Britain’s working and lower classes. This was not a completely selfless venture by Henry George Ashhurst (?-1882), the Hon. William Henry Adelbert Feilding (1836-1895), and the other directors of the corporation as they also endeavoured to make a profit if at all possible.
In late 1871 Feilding travelled to Australia and New Zealand to scope out possible land for the Emigrant and Colonists’ Aid Corporation Limited to purchase. He found that the atmosphere in New Zealand was more receptive to the aims of the company, especially because their plans coincided with a push by the New Zealand government, lead by Julius Vogel (1835-1899), to undertake large scale public works programmes. The corresponding legislature, the Immigration and Public Works Act (1870), meant that thousands of assisted immigrants were brought to New Zealand to work on projects such as railway construction, and to settle in the vicinity of the works, therein furthering the growth of the European population and contributing to the development of the economy.
Feilding was sufficiently impressed with what he saw on his quick tour through the Manawatu and entered into negotiations to purchase approximately 100,000 acres of land straddling the boundaries of Ahatauranga and Rangitikei-Manawatu Blocks. In the presence of Vogel, the deed for what was called the Manchester Block was signed in 1871 between the corporation and Queen Victoria, represented by Feilding and Sir George Ferguson Bowen respectively. One of the clauses in the agreement was that the corporation would settle at least 2,000 immigrants in the area by 1877 and that the government, once they had provided free passage from Britain for the immigrants, would then endeavour to employ them on public works projects in the proximity, such as the railway which cut through the block.
As an acknowledgment of Feilding’s role in the establishment of the Manchester Block, the main town was named after him and was the first settlement founded. By the turn of the twentieth century the population of Feilding had reached 2,000 people. Between 1901 and 1906 there was a substantial rise in the population, with the census showing an extra thousand people residing in the town which was described as ‘the market town of a thriving farming district.’ By this time Feilding had all of the municipal buildings and facilities one would expect of a well-established and flourishing town, such as a large Post Office complete with clock tower, gas lighting, churches representing all of the major Christian denominations, a railway station, a public library, schools, and leisure facilities and clubs.
It was during this period of expansion in Feilding in the late nineteenth century that Awatea was constructed for Jane Clapham, the widow of Thomas Henry Clapham. The Claphams were early settlers in Wellington; both Thomas and Jane were still children when they immigrated with their families in 1842. The two were married in 1854 and Thomas was a publican at Wellington’s Queen’s Arms Inn on Molesworth Street. It is unclear why the couple bought land just outside of Feilding on Pharazyn Street in 1878, but several members of their family eventually based themselves in the area, with two of their sons farming there by the 1890s. Another son, Fred, was living in Feilding when Awatea was constructed and then was among the various family members who lived at Pharazyn Street.
Awatea was constructed during 1893 and seems to have been designed by Thomas and his friend while the Claphams still lived in Wellington and prior to Thomas’ death in 1881. The acquaintance, J. Dormer, went onto construct Thomas’ dream house for his widow 12 years later using native timbers felled from the local properties of her sons. Dormer was still Wellington-based and advertised his combined carpentry, joinery, building, and undertaking service business regularly in Wellington into the early years of the twentieth century. Day labourers were employed to complete the construction of Awatea, but Dormer seems to have been in charge and his repertoire of skills was no doubt put to good use on the project. It is unclear whether the fashionable decorative Queen Ann style flourishes, such as those on the gable ends, were thought of while Thomas was alive, or if this was a later development.
Upon completion Jane Clapham, two of her daughters, and Fred moved into the rural homestead located quite close to Feilding. As was the fashion of the time, Awatea was given a Maori name, meaning daylight or midday. However, Jane did not live long after its completion to enjoy Awatea. The property was retained by the Clapham family and by 1896 had facilities like a windmill which provided the house with ‘a good water supply,’ a stable, dairy, and large orchard.
Over the years the surrounding property was gradually reduced in size, however, the house section stayed in the Clapham family until the mid twentieth century. The longest occupant of Awatea was Jane and Thomas’ eldest daughter, Jane Cattell, who lived there for 40 years. After Mrs Cattell died in 1942 the property was taken up by her niece, Freda Anne Maguire for a short period before being sold out of the family. The next owner retained Awatea for several decades, but in the late twentieth century the property seems to have changed hands fairly frequently.
When constructed over a century ago Awatea was on the outskirts of Feilding but still far enough away to be considered a rural homestead. Despite the residential area of the town now spreading down Pharazyn Street towards Awatea the area is not densely populated and therefore the house has retained the feeling of a homestead. This is helped by its picturesque placement at the centre of an elongated section, set back a considerable distance from the street front, across a drainage channel and bridge amidst a garden area. The complex of buildings and structures is completed with a large early twenty-first century multi-car garage, an original outbuilding which contained a stable and the house’s washhouse and dairy, as well as a windmill and well on the south boundary of the section which is currently surrounded by trees.
Awatea is a moderately large two storey timber house, built a few steps up off the ground. Not overly grand, the residence’s interior spaces are well-proportioned and comfortably spacious; suitable for its original family who were well-established but would not have been considered overly wealthy. The aspects of the building such as its asymmetry within an underlying rectangular plan, and the focus on creating interesting rooflines and shapes through interconnecting gables, bay windows and verandahs, as well as decorative features such as finials and gable-end detailing, are all characteristic of Queen Anne style architecture which was particularly fashionable in New Zealand in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
The roof is clad in corrugated iron with a main roof gable running east to west and perpendicular to this there are two secondary gables connecting to the north of the main roof gable. The front elevation of this main gable has one of the key features of the house, the double storey bay. At ground level there are several attachments to the main two storey form: a straight, corrugated iron, roofed verandah wrapping around much of the east and north facades of the building; an enclosed section of verandah which creates a sunroom off of the main living area; a long lean-to at the rear/west which houses the kitchen and laundry areas; and a covered south entrance with externally accessible toilet facilities. The effect of these adjuncts to the main structure is to slightly soften the visual effects of what is otherwise a compact and upright form. This is also accomplished through the building’s northeast corner forming a diagonal instead of a right angle, as well as that on the northwest corner of the kitchen lean-to. These aspects of the building are highlighted by the roof continuing to extend in a rectangular manner, which creates deeper eaves than elsewhere around the house.
Awatea is clad in rusticated weatherboards and has a strong vertical emphasis created by the main bay, which beneath its simple bargeboards features upward thrusting gable-end arrow patterned stickwork and the gable is surmounted with a pointed timber finial. This vertical emphasis is also promoted by the combined effect of the entrance gable in the verandah, each gable having a finial, and the front façade dormer which also has a stickwork gable-end, although this is less ornate than the detailing on the gable-ends of the two secondary gables which have a lower band of diamond shapes. The design of the main gable-end has been repeated on its opposite end, and although the south façade of the building is the most austere a certain amount of vertical emphasis is created by its double storey brick chimney. Previously this chimney had a symmetrical partner which serviced the dining room and an upper bedroom, but this has been removed.
There are other decorative features on the exterior which are noteworthy and contribute to Awatea’s quiet elegance. The main gable is the focus of much of the house’s decoration and also has sections of scalloping under each of its three sided bay windows. The double-hung sash windows of the bays are surmounted by arched leadlights set into rectangular architraves. Leadlighting was a common feature in Queen Anne style inspired houses and the bay windows all have panels of various colours that form different designs; each central light has a sunrise motif, probably in reference to the name of the house, and each flanking light is a mix of rectangular and curved shapes. The shape of the central leadlights is repeated in the main entrance fanlight, but the design is simpler being a multi-coloured check pattern with central circles. The dining room French doors on the southwest corner also have leadlighting. However, the floral design is not in keeping with that elsewhere, which suggest that these were a later addition.
Some timber decorative elements include corbel courses under the eaves of the front façade dormer and the north façade, as well as heavy brackets on the corner eaves of the bay window, the northeast corner, and the northwest kitchen corner, which have carved central four petalled flower motifs. A high level of craftsmanship is also displayed on the verandah posts. These were apparently hand-carved and flute inwards several times along their height. Surprisingly this level of detail has not been replicated on the verandah’s valances which are simple boards shaped into a gentle curve.
The private faces of the house, the west and south façades, are relatively plain. The west side features several double-hung sash windows of various sizes on both the upper and lower levels, and the one on the main gable has a simple sun-hood. The south side of the building is free of fenestrations except for a late twentieth century faux leadlight stairwell window. Recently a deck area has been created which wraps around the southwest corner and connects the access points leading into the kitchen, dining room, and the area beneath the stairs.
The interior layout has undergone some changes over the years, including the combining of the two living spaces on the ground level, north side, of the house with an opening in the adjoining wall, which was created by the late 1960s. More recently this opening has been modified into an arch. This matches the carved arch leading into the sunroom and was installed in the late twentieth century. The arch of the upper hall differs from these and could be an original feature, as is the dog-leg staircase with its acorn-shaped newel drops, moulded newel posts, balustrades, and decorative exterior stringer.
The upper level consists of three moderately sized bedrooms. The master bedroom is at the front of the main gable and links into an elongated en suite bathroom, then into a large walk-in wardrobe/dressing room. Both of these later spaces are late twentieth century alterations and, seem to have previously comprised of two smaller scale bedrooms, each with an access point from the upper hall. The unusual shape and reduced size of the bedroom on the northeast corner suggests that the upstairs bathroom on the west side of the building is also a later addition, although this is likely to have been installed in early decades of the twentieth century.
Although many of the original fireplaces and surrounds have been removed from the building, some fireplaces remain. The wedge shape wall in the open plan living encloses the original chimney that serviced the back-to-back fireplaces, and the fireplace in the northwest bedroom was recently uncovered when circa 1960s cabinetry was removed. Many of the ceiling mounted lighting are pendant lights and are all recent fittings. Some also have ceiling roses which, because most of the internal linings have been replaced, are likely to also be modern insertions.
Other buildings and structures of note
The divide between the street frontage of the property, and that within which Awatea sits, is defined by a water course/drainage channel. This is lined with riverstones imbedded in concrete and probably dates from the early decades of the twentieth century, or may even be contemporary with the construction of the house. The driveway crosses a corresponding bridge which is located towards the north side of the section. Likewise, the bridge features riverstone and concrete low parapets, which are slightly raked, and double as planter boxes.
On the opposite side of the house, and only a few metres away from the kitchen lean-to, is the homestead’s outbuilding. This simple gabled building still contains its single stall stable at its northern end. There are two main access doors facing the homestead which are interspersed between two double-hung sash windows. Side access is provided through a set of French doors which are most likely a late twentieth century addition. Some interior partitions have been installed, but most of the building is open plan. The south east corner has remnant fittings from when washing coppers were installed and the south gable-end has the opening (boarded over on the exterior) where chaff would have been loaded into the fodder loft to be stored. The building’s fireplace and chimney were removed in the late twentieth century.
The water supply alluded to in early newspaper accounts no doubt referred to the well and accompanying windmill present to the south of the house. It is unclear whether the present timber windmill is an original feature, but the well seems to be.
Concrete, corrugated iron, brick, glass, timber
23rd September 2010
Report Written By
Buick, 1903 (1975)
TL Buick, 'Old Manawatu', Christchurch, 1903 (1975)
Cyclopedia of New Zealand, 1908
Cyclopedia Company, Industrial, descriptive, historical, biographical facts, figures, illustrations, Wellington, N.Z, 1897-1908, Vol. 6, Taranaki, Hawke's Bay, Wellington, 1908
D. A. Davies & R.E. Clevely, Pioneering to Prosperity 1874-1974: A Centennial History of the Manchester Block (Feilding & Oroua Borough Councils, Feilding 1981)
T A Gibson, An Account of the Settlement of the Feilding District (First published Feilding 1936, this copy: Capper Press, Christchurch, 1983)
G. Petersen, Palmerston North; A Centennial History, Wellington, 1973
A fully referenced Registration Report is available from the NZHPT Central Region office
Please note that entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero identifies only the heritage values of the property concerned, and should not be construed as advice on the state of the property, or as a comment of its soundness or safety, including in regard to earthquake risk, safety in the event of fire, or insanitary conditions.